Trans. Sep 3 11:46 ET (Sep 3 11:46 ET ) Brazil and Argentina kept alive their dreams of rekindling past glories after winning in contrasting fashion to reach the basketball World Cup last 16 with a match to spare on Wednesday. Australia and Lithuania also booked their knockout-stage berths on a frantic penultimate day of the preliminary group stage, with holders United States and hosts Spain enjoying comfortable wins after sealing their passage earlier. Winners in 1959 and 1963, Brazil stayed on course for a first podium finish since 1978 with a rollercoaster 81-73 win over Serbia, having trailed in the second half after squandering a 16-point halftime lead. Argentina, the 2002 tournament runners-up and the 2004 Olympic champions, romped to an 81-46 mauling of surprise package Senegal on the back of 22 points and 14 rebounds from Indiana Pacers forward Luis Scola.
Brazil and Argentina kept alive their dreams of rekindling past glories after winning in contrasting fashion to reach the basketball World Cup last 16 with a match to spare on Wednesday. Australia and Lithuania also booked their knockout-stage berths on a frantic penultimate day of the preliminary group stage, with holders United States and hosts Spain enjoying comfortable wins after sealing their passage earlier. Winners in 1959 and 1963, Brazil stayed on course for a first podium finish since 1978 with a rollercoaster 81-73 win over Serbia, having trailed in the second half after squandering a 16-point halftime lead. Argentina, the 2002 tournament runners-up and the 2004 Olympic champions, romped to an 81-46 mauling of surprise package Senegal on the back of 22 points and 14 rebounds from Indiana Pacers forward Luis Scola.
The Scoop:Scola's one-man show wasn't sufficient to counter Croatia's balanced scoring, but it's nice to see the Pacers' veteran thriving in the World Cup. He's not a reliable fantasy asset as a backup behind David West, but would be a nice waiver wire pickup if injuries strike Indiana's frontcourt.
The NBA is most definitely perched in its slow season, with the top free agents long having signed away, and the anticipated deal sending Kevin Love to Cleveland still a few weeks away from being NBA-legal. Beyond Friday’s Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony, and the next time Nick Young beefs with whatever the heck an “Iggy Azalea” is, all we’ve left to do is wait out the futures of all manner of available free agents. Whether they be restricted, ancient, lunkheaded, undervalued, outmoded or just plain weird, they’re all out there. Here’s the best of what’s left: Eric Bledsoe It was rumored on Tuesday that Bledsoe would be willing to take the qualifying offer from the Phoenix Suns, play out his year, and hit the open market in 2015 as an unrestricted free agent. Whether this is a plant or not, it’s a solid feint from Bledsoe’s camp, which has absolutely no leverage in dealing with restricted free agency. Bledsoe was not a high end draft pick, so his relatively slim qualifying offer of over $3.7 million would be less than a third of what the Suns are reportedly offering for next year’s salary, and under a quarter of the maximum contract yearly averages that he desires. It would seem to be a solid gambit, plenty of teams will pounce on Bledsoe as their highly-compensated consolation prize next summer, and he should make up that sort of qualifying offer cash in the long run. Ideally. Bledsoe has already undergone two of the scarier NBA knee procedures in tearing his meniscus twice. During the second repair, it was revealed that surgeons decided to take what is usually a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach to the knee, but that decision may have been instructed more by the bad shape Eric’s knee was already in more than it was a move to get him back on the court. They may have had no chance. Not taking the guaranteed money is a risky move for Bledsoe, and while he’ll have solid free agent suitors next year if his knee goes out again, or he misses time (he’s missed a total of 72 games in four NBA seasons) with another injury, the market will worry the bottle. From there, we move to the Suns’ approach, which is a smart but uneasy one. Bledsoe has already acknowledged that the Suns are “ using restricted free agency against me ,” and while he didn’t say this unkindly, this cannot be fun. Bledsoe would seem to have a brighter future than most guards making $48 million over four years, especially provided that he continues to team with Goran Dragic, but again – two knee surgeries, 72 games missed, not a long track record of running his team on his own. And relatively iffy numbers when charged with as much with Dragic off the court next season. Bledsoe will likely stay a Sun. The only question is regarding how angry this Sun will be, and for how much money? Greg Monroe We’ve already discussed at length Monroe’s prospects in an earlier column , and little has changed since it came out. The Pistons are in a unique situation as they attempt to rebuild with both veterans on contracts, rookies on rookie deals, and Monroe’s restricted free agency looming. Monroe, like Bledsoe, has little if any leverage, and it’s reported that he’s convinced Detroit isn’t so much holding his feet to the fire as it is they just don’t want the guy back. That’s debatable, new coach Stan Van Gundy is a competitor and though Monroe isn’t his typical power forward, SVG probably thinks he can make light of Detroit’s currently crowded front court situation. Until a deal is reached, opposing teams aren’t going to waste time compiling a contract with Monroe just to get Detroit’s affairs in order, and they’re certainly not going to overpay and scare the Pistons away from matching a restricted offer. Monroe was a lottery pick, so he doesn’t take nearly as much hit as Bledsoe would in playing for the qualifying offer. Shawn Marion It’s worth noting that, though he had aged well in the years leading up to 2013-14, Marion’s production took a bit of a dive last season. His rebounding and assist percentage dropped severely, he shot less, and not even an uptick in three-point shooting (to a reasonable 35.8 percent) could stave of Shawn’s worst year yet. The addition of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon’s heavy-usage ways may have played a part in some of that, but it’s important to note for teams looking for the Shawn Marion they saw in recent years, much less a decade ago. Cleveland and Indiana know that, however, and this is why they’re attempting to lure Marion for either frontcourt depth (the Cavaliers) or as a desperate bid to save a decimated small forward slot (Indiana). Marion would seem to be a great fit on the defensive-leaning Pacers, but it’s hard to believe the Pacers would break the luxury tax after years of taking a stance against such things, and Marion would have to play for “only” $2 million next season in order to allow Indiana from going over its limit. The team could add more wriggle room by releasing Luis Scola and Donald Sloan, but is losing depth at needed positions worth it to sign Marion at age 36? Especially when he’s a complementary player on a team full of players that can’t create their own shots? This is why the Cavaliers seem a logical destination, especially after a very public meeting with the team’s coach and general manager on Monday: @MySportsLegion @matrix31 in Ohio City today meeting with coach Blatt and gm David griffin... You heard it first pic.twitter.com/wgB6DSJ6iN — Joey Rosen (@RealJoeyRosen) August 4, 2014 It’s true that Marion would technically be brought on board to spell LeBron James, but if the proposed trade involving Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett goes down, even with Kevin Love coming into Cleveland the Cavs would be down a versatile forward, and nothing screams “WIN NOW!” like dealing the last two top overall picks and signing a 36-year old. Ray Allen Allen’s future has also been discussed recently in these parts , and his future is entirely up to him. Should he decide to return for his 19th NBA season, he’ll have the pick of the litter as just about every NBA team after his mix of sensibility and shooting. The Los Angeles Clippers, with former Allen cohort Doc Rivers running the show, would seem to be a candidate alongside Cleveland and Miami, but they’re just about hard-capped out entering 2014-15. Ramon Sessions Sessions seems criminally underrated just about every summer he’s available on the open market. He’s not ideal as a starter unless you’re boasting some sort of dream team alongside him, but as a penetrator and scorer he remains a productive player that is about to enter his prime. Sessions had to wait until September to sign as a free agent back in 2009, and this appears to be the case this time around as well. Sessions gets to the line a ton, especially for a non-star, he’s not a three-point shooter but makes up for that with his wily scoring instincts that figure to hold up over the next couple of years. Elton Brand The former All-Star looked his age last year, sturdily working as a reserve big man at age 35. His block rate continues to rise as the years move along, he remains a heady and long defender despite his 6-8 frame, though he rarely shoots and his rebounding rates are declining, and he’s a long seven years removed from an Achilles tear. Brand gave no indication as Atlanta’s year ended last spring that he was ready to retire, and he shouldn’t have to. As the NBA continues to get smaller and smaller, Brand’s footwork can still do some defensive damage off of a team bench. He won’t provide the sort of offensive spacing that teams are currently looking for in their bigs, but Elton Brand’s career shouldn’t be over yet. Jermaine O’Neal O’Neal didn’t suffer one massive, career-altering injury as Brand did in 2007, but he’s perpetually banged up, and you can just about pencil him in for missing a goodly chunk of the season. This isn’t O’Neal’s fault, his spindly frame and all-
With the foundation they've laid for the future of basketball in their country crumbling around them, the final chapter penned by the historic core of Argentina's national team may be its most important.
At the 2002 FIBA World Championships, an Argentine team featuring a 25-year-old Manu Ginobili, 23-year-old Andres Nocioni and 22-year-old Luis Scola handed the U.S. its first post-Dream Team international basketball defeat on the way to a silver medal. A cohesive and complementary bunch, they went on to win 2004 Olympic gold, creating the model to which even Team USA ultimately aspired .
In more than a decade since, basketball's popularity has grown immensely in Argentina, ultimately becoming the nation's second most prominent sport behind only soccer. Throughout, Ginobili, Nocioni and Scola remained, proudly wearing their white and blue jerseys on courts around the globe.
In their mid-30s now, entering what could very well be their last international competition as a trio, they should be leaving behind a legacy that lasts long after they're gone. But the widespread corruption that has poisoned many of the nation's government programs has apparently infected basketball, too.
According to reports translated from Spanish in the San Antonio Express-News and the great Spurs blog Pounding the Rock , the Argentine Basketball Federation has fallen roughly $20 million in debt and has at times forced national team members to train uninsured for free under less than ideal travel conditions.
Complaints from the Argentine players have since resulted in the ousting of ABA head Germán Vaccaro, but doubts about new president Daniel Zanni and the remaining board members reportedly persist.
As a result, Scola declared in a blunt interview with Argentine newspaper Clarín , "The crisis is more important than the World Cup. If I don't play, the horrendous management of the basketball association will be to blame." Soon afterwards, both Ginobili and Nocioni pledged their support on Twitter.
"The captain got angry and I’m great with that," Ginobili wrote . "Well said."
"Embarrassment!" added Nocioni . "I apologize because Argentine basketball does not deserve this!"
As relayed expertly by SB Nation's Jesus Gomez in recent days, that triumvirate's demands of a thorough audit looking into the alleged corruption have gone unanswered, but a meeting between Zanni and the Argentine players on Friday seems to have put an end to a potential World Cup boycott for now.
Scola: "there's not risk of us not playing as long as the things that the Secretary of Sport promised us are delivered. We'll see" — Jesus Gomez (@JejeGomez_PtR) July 25, 2014
Scola: "we want deep changes in the association. Changing just one name at the top is not enough" — Jesus Gomez (@JejeGomez_PtR) July 25, 2014
Manu: "the easiest thing for us to do would have been to just play or stay at home. We are getting our hands dirty because we care (1/2) — Jesus Gomez (@JejeGomez_PtR) July 25, 2014
(2/2) "We are getting muddied by this. But we care about the future. We are on our way out." — Jesus Gomez (@JejeGomez_PtR) July 25, 2014
All these years later, Ginobili, Nocioni and Scola are still laying the groundwork for Argentina basketball.
As for Ginobili's health, he has reportedly been cleared to play following an MRI by the Argentine national team's doctor on Friday, but the Spurs have final say on whether the stress fracture in his right leg is healthy enough for competition. Naturally, Ginobili wants to take the floor, since next month's FIBA Basketball World Cup might be his final opportunity to represent Argentina — on the court, at least.